Security has evolved into a game of detection and response, and the greatest weapon in this new world order is timely threat intelligence sharing. This is true primarily because details about an attack campaign provided by a peer organization can accelerate the response time to threats and limit their damage.
The good news is that there is growing support for threat intelligence sharing. In March of 2015, Andrew H. Tannenbaum, Cybersecurity Counsel for IBM, submitted testimony in support of threat information sharing before the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He argued that:
- Cyber threats have become too diverse and too dynamic to completely eliminate cyber risk;
- Businesses need to identify potential risks in their IT systems, prioritize them, and allocate security resources accordingly;
- Cybersecurity is now a data analytics challenge.
In his testimony, Tannenbaum explained that the explosion in technology, data, and access “has created a sea of new risks and hidden vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. The velocity and volume of this threat requires a comprehensive, risk-based approach to cybersecurity,” he said, adding that “in order to stay ahead of the attackers, companies need timely and actionable information about specific threats to their infrastructure.”
“Malicious actors,” he said, “can move through networks at light speed, so information about the attack needs to be available to potential victims in as close to real time as possible.”
Other calls to action
The NIST Guide to Cyber Threat Information Sharing also recently pointed to the need for organizations to enhance incident response actions and bolster cyber defenses, by harnessing “the collective wisdom of peer organizations through information sharing and coordinated incident response." Even President Obama espoused the benefits of information sharing at his summit on Cyber Security in Palo Alto. During the summit, Obama announced his executive order directing the creation of new Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs).
According to the 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, using shared intelligence for "herd alertness" -- just as animals on the plains share warnings when predators are near -- requires speed to be effective. That is because 75 percent of attacks spread from Victim 0 to Victim 1 in 24 hours while 40 percent hit the second victim organization in less than an hour!
One recent industry initiative designed to accelerate the exchange of threat intelligence is Facebook ThreatExchange. According to Facebook, there are currently more than 170 ThreatExchange members contributing attack information to this community, among them, RiskIQ, and other security vendors, plus cloud and social media companies the likes of Pinterest, Dropbox, Tumblr, and Yahoo. ThreatExchange allows security researchers to team up with peers they know and trust, to share information and perform threat analysis. The intelligence shared by members of ThreatExchange connects attacks to attack infrastructure and enables organizations to combat threats like malvertising, ransomware, and other criminal-based attacks that routinely penetrate perimeter controls and scale beyond traditional defensive measures.
The more companies share threat information, the easier it becomes to detect and respond to threats. Whether it’s private sharing of attack campaigns, long-form reports on threat actors, or just public lists of indicators -- sharing should occur without friction. The more vendors, service providers, and companies band together to fight security threats, the more difficult it will become for attacks to succeed.